X

Aaron Rodgers, Packers Beat Kirk Cousins, Vikings on the Road; Clinch NFC North

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 24, 2019

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) carries on a 56-yard touchdown run during the second half of the team's NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)
Craig Lassig/Associated Press

The Green Bay Packers are NFC North champions for the first time since the 2016 season.

Green Bay clinched the division title with a 23-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday at U.S. Bank Stadium. The 12-3 Packers have won four games in a row after Aaron Jones and the defense led the way in the latest effort and helped them complete a sweep of their rival.

They can now turn their attention to the battle with the 12-3 San Francisco 49ers and 12-3 New Orleans Saints for the NFC's No. 1 seed.

As for Minnesota, it is still 10-5 and headed to the playoffs as a wild card even though its two-game winning streak came to an end.

   

Notable Player Stats

  • GB QB Aaron Rodgers: 26-of-40 for 216 yards with 1 INT
  • GB RB Aaron Jones: 23 carries for 154 yards and 2 TDs
  • GB WR Davante Adams: 13 catches for 116 yards
  • MIN QB Kirk Cousins: 16-of-31 for 122 yards and 1 TD with 1 INT
  • MIN WR Stefon Diggs: 3 catches for 57 yards and 1 TD

   

Aaron Jones Comes to the Rescue for Packers Offense

Aaron Rodgers is arguably the most talented quarterback in NFL history, and he entered play with 24 touchdown passes to just two interceptions.

Still, he hasn't been the same Aaron Rodgers fans have grown accustomed to. He has as many games with more than 300 passing yards (three) as he does with less than 200 yards this season and is a mere 20th in the league in QBR—behind Daniel Jones, Jameis Winston and Monday's counterpart, Kirk Cousins.

NFL @NFL

The @Vikings force another turnover! Anthony Harris with the interception 🙌 #Skol 📺: #GBvsMIN on ESPN 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/amQPi4hFNM https://t.co/83fwP87czR

Cian @Cianaf

Rodgers has misplaced at least three short throws because of footwork tonight. Same thing he's done throughout most of his career. As irritating as ever.

Frank Schwab @YahooSchwab

Look, Adams should catch that. But that's not a good throw by Rodgers either. He missed that pretty bad, easy TD if he puts it where he has to.

It appeared as if he were headed toward another suboptimal game when he threw an interception to Anthony Harris in the second quarter that set up Cousins' 21-yard touchdown strike to Stefon Diggs.

Rodgers also threw a poorly placed ball to Davante Adams on a would-be touchdown right before the end of the half, though the wide receiver could have caught it.

The Green Bay offensive line struggled to give Rodgers a clean pocket, receivers not named Adams couldn't get open, and No. 12 was missing the magic that often bailed out teammates in similar situations in years past.

Enter Jones.

NFL @NFL

It’s @Showtyme_33 in primetime! #GoPackGo Aaron Jones scores on the 12-yard run and the @packers convert the two-point attempt to take a 17-10 lead! 📺: #GBvsMIN on ESPN 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/amQPi4hFNM https://t.co/xrpFKjfl3V

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

AARON. JONES. Off to the races 🏎 (via @NFL) https://t.co/9qd52Ep5oZ

The league leader in rushing scores gave the visitors their first touchdown late in the third quarter after Kevin King's interception set them up with favorable field position. He put an exclamation point on the victory by breaking free for a 56-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and was clearly the best player on the field.

Green Bay's best chance at a Super Bowl doesn't run through this year's version of Rodgers. It's Jones.

   

Vikings Offense Goes MIA Without Dalvin Cook

Running back Dalvin Cook and backup Alexander Mattison were sidelined by injuries, which left the Vikings with Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah and C.J. Ham in the backfield.

Fantasy managers hoped Boone would win them championships in Week 16, but Cook is on the shortlist of the best running backs in the league. Without him on the field, the Packers focused more attention on Diggs and Adam Thielen, who didn't even register a reception on four targets.

Sage Rosenfels @SageRosenfels18

When Dalvin Cook’s agent tries renegotiate his contract, they should bring a copy of this game.

ProFootballTalk @ProFootballTalk

Vikings won’t win in playoffs without Dalvin Cook. With Dalvin Cook, they have a chance. If it’s a day game.

Michael Fabiano @Michael_Fabiano

Mike Boone is a third-string running back for a reason. Sometimes volume isn't king. We're learning that painful lesson so far tonight.

NFL @NFL

INTERCEPTION! @King_kevvoo @packers take over. #GoPackGo 📺: #GBvsMIN on ESPN 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/amQPi4hFNM https://t.co/duA2s9U7kC

What's more, Za'Darius Smith didn't have to worry about Cook on screens and draws, which allowed him to pin his ears back and tally 3.5 sacks. That was a problem for an offensive line that was abysmal and cost the Vikings with a holding penalty that nullified a long touchdown pass when they were in comeback mode late.

Without much time to throw or Cook to bail him out, Cousins continued his prime-time struggles and failed to make a single impact play with the game on the line down the stretch.

Minnesota needs its workhorse back before the playoffs.

   

What's Next?

The Packers finish their regular season Sunday at the Detroit Lions, while the Vikings host the Chicago Bears on the same day.